If you’re not consistently following up with prospects, you’re letting an enormous amount of sales slip through the cracks in your marketing.

You might already suspect this is the case… and yet, most businesses don’t follow up. If you’re not following up, I suspect it’s either because you don’t realize how important follow-up is, or because you don’t have the tools to make following up easier for you.

And so, in today’s article, I’m going to make the case for why you should put “fixing your follow-up” at the very top of your list of marketing priorities. And then I’m going to point you to some helpful tools.

When Do People Buy?

First, in order to grasp the importance of follow-up, you need to understand when people buy. A study done by the Association of Sales Executives revealed that 81% of all sales happens on or after the fifth contact.

Why is this the case? It’s because people buy when they’re ready, not when you’re ready to make a sale. That’s a very important point to remember.

OK, so when exactly are most people ready to buy?

A landmark study by the Inquiry Handling Service found that approximately half of all people who inquire about something will end up buying a product or service within 18 months. But here’s the interesting part… Only 15% of the buyers (people who ultimately bought within 18 months) purchased within 90 days. And that means 85% of the buying activity happens between month 4 and month 18!

(I learned about this study on the ILoveMarketing.com. Highly recommended podcast and blog).

Here’s the point: If you’re not following up, you’re losing sales.

OK, so if you know that follow-up is important, but you’re still not doing it, it’s because you don’t have tools to make follow-up easy.

Let’s talk about tools…

4 Tools to Make Follow-Up Easier

1. Reminders

At the very least, you need reminders to follow up. For example, if you’re speaking to a prospect and they’re not quite ready, you could make a note in your calendar to follow up with them next month. You could use Google Calendar or even a “paper and ink” calendar or day planner.

But ideally you use a more automated system to remind you.

2. Automated Reminders

Here’s a free solution that sends you automated reminders at pre-determined intervals. It’s called FollowUpThen. If you’re emailing with a prospect and they need more time, reply to them and BCC “2weeks@followupthen.com” and FollowUpThen will automaticaly send you an email reminder to follow up with them on that day.  You’ll get the reminder but your prospect won’t. Pretty slick. Learn more and try it free at: http://followupthen.com

Automated reminders can can work pretty well if you don’t have a lot of leads flowing your way. But if you’re generating a good volume of leads, you’ll need a more scalable system. Plus, in addition to reminders, I recommend you automate at least some of the communications you send out to your prospects in your follow-up campaigns.

In other words, I recommend you use email autoresponders…

3. Autoresponders

Autoresponders are emails that are pre-written and pre-programmed to be sent out at specific intervals. For example, if you sign up to request a free report from our website, you’ll receive an immediate email on Day 1, then a follow-up email on Day 2 with some more information, and so forth.

Every major email service provider (ESP) offers autoresponders as part of their package. And these services are very affordable, usually starting at about $20/month, although most providers have free or low-cost trial periods.

Here are some of the most popular ESPs

4. Autoresponders + CRM

The ultimate follow-up tool, in my opinion, is InfusionSoft. This is what we use here at Main Street ROI.

InfusionSoft is an ESP — but it’s also a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This means that with InfusionSoft you can keep full records of your prospects’ and customers’ contact information and activity. You can easily categorize people as prospects or customers (or inactive customers), and trigger different follow-up sequences based on their activity. If you have a complex sales process or if you want to increase the lifetime value of your customers, then having some type of CRM is critical. And we strongly recommend InfusionSoft for small businesses.

If you’d like to learn more about InfusionSoft, we’ve arranged for you to get a free demo.

Click here to request a free InfusionSoft demo

Whatever You Do… Just Do It!

I hope I’ve helped convince you to implement some kind of follow-up system in your business. No matter what tool you use (even if it’s just paper and pen), make sure that you’re doing something! Otherwise,  you’re letting sales slip through the cracks.